Biography of Sauli Niinistö

Sauli Niinistö is the 12th President of the Republic of Finland. He was inaugurated on 1 March 2012 and was re-elected for another six-year term in January 2018. It was a historic victory as it was the first time ever for a Finnish presidential candidate to secure more than 50% of the popular vote already in the first round.

Sauli Niinistö was born in Salo on 24 August 1948. He graduated from the University of Turku with a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1974 and was subsequently employed as a rural police chief and, for more than ten years, as an assistant judge at the Turku Court of Appeal. He also practiced law as an attorney and gained experience of corporate administration. He began his political career in 1977 when he was elected to the Town Council of Salo. He continued to hold elected posts in local government until the 1990s.

Sauli Niinistö was first elected to Parliament in 1987. His elected posts while in Parliament included chairing the Constitutional Law Committee. In 1995, he was appointed Minister of Justice and Deputy Prime Minister. Reshuffled to the Ministry of Finance in 1996, he eventually became Finland’s longest-serving Minister of Finance to date. When he took up this post, the aftermath of the 1990s recession was at its worst, and unemployment was at record high levels. Those difficulties were overcome, however, and Finland entered the new millennium with a robust economy.

Sauli Niinistö was Chairman of the National Coalition Party from 1994 to 2001. In addition to his political activities in Finland, he was the Chairman of the European Democrat Union (EDU), with a membership of center-right parties from almost all European countries, from 1998 to 2002. He was instrumental in merging the EDU with the European People’s Party (EPP) and was appointed the second Honorary President of the latter.

In 2003, Sauli Niinistö took up the post of Vice President of the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg. His purview included R&D funding and funding activities in the Nordic countries and Russia, and he was also chairman of the Northern Dimension Partnership Programme. He has also been a Member and Chairman of the Board of Governors of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and a Member of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC).

Sauli Niinistö returned to the Finnish Parliament in the 2007 election with the highest number of votes ever gained by a candidate. He was Speaker of Parliament from 2007 to 2011.

President Niinistö is married to Jenni Haukio and they had a son, Aaro, in February 2018. Their family also includes Lennu, a Boston Terrier. In addition, president Niinistö has two adult sons from his previous marriage with Marja-Leena Niinistö. Marja-Leena Niinistö died in a in a car crash in 1995.

Sauli Niinistö survived the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and the ensuing tsunami in Khao Lak, Thailand by climbing a utility pole with his son.

President Niinistö is active in sports and was also Chairman of the Finnish Football Association from 2009 to 2012 and Chairman of the organising committee for the 2009 European Figure Skating Championships. He has written two books.